Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Four: The Four Forces of Purification, Part One
The following reading is taken from the Entry Point for Children of the Victorious Buddhas (rGyal-sras ‘jug-ngogs), a commentary by Gyaltsab Je Darma Rinchen (1364-1432) on the book called Guide to the Bodhisattva’ Way of Life (Byang-chubsems-dpa’i spyod-pa la ‘jug-pa) by Master Shantideva (c. 700 AD).
The fourth section here concerns purifying yourself of bad deeds, through using all four of the forces together. We begin with a general presentation.
You should from the very beginning make efforts to see that you are not sullied by performing any harmful actions.
Despite your efforts, however, such an action may occur, due to some instance of carelessness, an attack of mental afflictions, or the like. It would be a mistake in such a case to simply ignore the bad deed; you should rather exert yourself in the various methods of repairing the damage.
What are the four practices? They are as follows: the activity of destruction; the activity of applying the antidote; the force of restraining from the particular bad deed; and the force of the foundation.
The second force, as described in the Compendium of Trainings, consists of performing practices such as studying the profound scriptures of the canon, meditating on emptiness, reciting secret words, preparing physical representations of the holy bodies of enlightened beings, making offerings, and reciting the names of high beings.
Next we present some detail on each of the four: the force of the activity of destruction; the force of the foundation; the force of the activity of applying the antidote; and the force of restraining from the particular bad deed.
THE FORCE OF THE ACTIVITY OF DESTRUCTION
We will explain the first force in four steps: an explanation of the process of regret, which you reach by examining the way in which you have committed the negative deed; the practice of developing regret out of fear that you may die while you still possess the negative deed, along with an explanation of how to go for refuge;
The first of these steps has four parts of its own: requesting the one to whom you are going to reveal your negative action to attend to your confession; a method for a general purification of negative actions you have committed, according to time, cause, type, or other detail;
a method for the purification of especially powerful negative actions which have been committed towards some special object; and learning to perform purification due to regret inspired by having considered carefully the unwanted karmic results that the action will bring you.
I make supplication, with my palms joined at my breast,
Here is the first. I make supplication, with my palms joined at my breast, to the totally enlightened beings, and bodhisattvas who reside in every direction of the world: to those beings who possess great compassion. I request them to hear my confession, which I make out of regret for the negative deeds I have committed.
In the cycle of life without beginning,
In both this and my other lives,
And encouraged others to commit them;
Overcome by my total failure to understand, I took joy.
Now I see my mistakes, as many as I may have made,
And I confess them to the Protectors
From the bottom of my heart.
I have as well encouraged others to commit them. And because of the fact that I was overcome by my total failure to understand the principles of deeds and their consequences, I took joy in the negative actions committed by others. I see now that all of my mistakes, as many as I may have made, truly are mistakes, and with regret that comes from the bottom of my heart I confess these mistakes to the Protectors—I conceal nothing, I hide nothing.
I confess whatever harm I may ever have done towards
Here is the third point. The person who was mistaken—that is, I myself—confess whatever harm I may ever have done towards the Three Jewels, or towards my parents, and towards any other such high object of merit;
I have been infected by a great number of bad deeds.
I confess to every one of the Guides
All the dreadful negative deeds I’ve done.
I have been infected by a great number of bad deeds, by emotions such as attachment, which will act as causes that will bring me the karmic result of a birth in the hells or the like. All the negative deeds that I have done, actions like killing and the like, are going to create for me immense suffering; they are therefore dreadful, and I confess them to every one of the Guides.
I could be finished off first, before
I can clean myself of my negative deeds.
And so I beg you protect me, speedily,
In any way I’ll be certainly freed.
This Lord of Death cannot be trusted,
He waits for no one, finished or not.
He takes all sorts suddenly, those sick and well,
This Lord of Death cannot be trusted, even for a single moment of time, and he waits for no one: he has absolutely no interest in whether you have finished purifying yourself of your negative actions or not.
His coming in no way depends upon whether what you have hoped to do is done or not.
Therefore you should feel no certainty about your life, no assurance even that you will not die this very day. And since this fact that you can feel no certainty is true, you should quickly purify yourself of your negative actions.
Next is the point about meaningless misdeeds. Here first we cover the kind of regret you have about negative actions you have committed for the sake of your relatives, or for the sake of your body or possessions or anything of the like, all because you failed to realize how they were nothing you could ever depend upon. After that will come a metaphor to show how, at the moment of death, none of these is anything more than a memory.
Then we will cover the kind of regret you reach about having committed these kinds of negative actions once you have seen directly as well how none of the things for whom you committed the actions were in any way something you could depend upon.
I’ll have to give up it all and travel,
But I’ve failed to realize this fact,
And so I’ve committed an entire variety
Of bad deeds for friends and enemies.
Here is the first of the four points. I will have to give up it all—my relatives, and all my possessions and the rest, and even the flesh and blood and such which came with me when I was born—and travel on to the life beyond, alone, by myself.
But I have failed to realize this fact, and so I have committed an entire variety of bad deeds for the sake of protecting my friends and defeating my enemies.
The enemies cease to exist,
The friends too cease to exist,
I myself cease to exist as well;
And everything else ceases too.
And it was wrong to commit bad deeds for these reasons, because shortly afterwards the enemies cease to exist, and the friends to cease to exist, and I myself cease to exist as well. Just so everything else, the relatives and the possessions and so on, ceases too.
All the objects you use are the same
All things that have passed are no longer here.
In the time that we have lived,
Many friends and enemies have slipped to the past.
But all the negative that we committed
For their sakes lies before us still.
But whatever dreadful consequences there may be from all the negative that we committed for their sakes still lies before us. It’s like the lines that say,
Since they can never take upon themselves
Any share of the suffering,
What use then are the best of friends,
Who only serve to hinder us?
Without my even realizing it,
I commit a great number of different bad deeds,
Due to my ignorance, to liking and disliking.
In just a single instant of time as I live in this condition, of having no certainty when it is that I will die—that is to say, suddenly, without my even realizing it, I commit a great number of different bad deeds, due to my ignorance, my tendency of liking some things, and disliking other things.
I must contemplate thus the facts of how my death is certain, and how the time that I will die is not certain at all, and how when I die there is nothing at all that can help me except the Dharma. I must think carefully too of all the problems of these lower realms.
The first is learning to feel fear about the certainty of death, which is a fact because you cannot add any time onto your life, which is melting away constantly, without a moment’s hesitation; and to feel fear that you might die while you still possess negative deeds.
Day and night, without hesitating
This life is forever dropping,
There is no extra life set aside
That is ever going to come to you.
How then could it ever happen
That someone like me wouldn’t die?
Here is the first of the four. No matter which of the three kinds of activities you may be engaged in—going somewhere, sitting somewhere, or sleeping; and during all the day and all the night, without hesitating even for a moment, this life is forever “dropping,” which is to say, decreasing.
There is no extra life set aside somewhere that is ever going to come to you later.
Our discussion of the suffering in this life has itself three sections, which are all based on what would happen if you failed to purify yourself of negative actions. These are descriptions of how people like your family and friends have no ability to protect you; how you will have to fear if you have not been able to perform any good deeds; and how you will be tormented by regret.
You may be lying down on your bed
Surrounded by your friends and family,
But it’s only you, and you alone,
Who will have to undergo the pain.
When Lord Death’s messengers take hold of you.
What’s the use of your family,
And what use are your friends?
Here is the first. If you fail to perform good deeds, then when you die you experience the sufferings caused by the sensations of having life stop; you may be lying down on your bed surrounded by your friends and family, people who love you with their whole hearts, but it is only you, and you alone, who will have to undergo the pain.
And the problem is not only that there is no one there who can stop the terror—the messengers of the Lord of Death, in hideous forms, take hold of you. What is the use of your family at this point? And of what use are friends? Only the Dharma can protect you at that moment.
Though I failed to follow them during my life.
Here is the second point.
I failed though during my life to follow these practices.
I’d be faced with terrors like this;
And so I accomplished many negative deeds,
All for the sake of this fleeting life.
Here is the third point.
There are people who are about
To have one of their limbs cut off;
And on the day they’re dragged away
To the place, they are seized with terror.
Their mouths go dry, eyes bulge, and the rest.
Suppose then that you are taken hold of
By the messengers of the Lord of Death,
By those monstrous and terrifying creatures,
If one can go through the change before
Then what need then is there ever to speak
Of this most desperate of all situations?
There are kinds of people who are about to undergo some punishment where they will have one of their limbs cut off; on the day that the guards drag them away to the place where the sentence is to be carried out, they are seized with terror.
Suppose now that you are taken hold of by the messengers of the Lord of Death, by monstrous and terrifying creatures from another realm altogether. And suppose as well that you are stricken by that great fear, by the unique pain of death itself.
If people who are about to have nothing more than a limb cut off go through the change we just spoke of before, then what need is there ever to speak of the incredible terror that you will, in this most desperate of all situations, come to experience?
Where is there now anyone who can
Save me completely from this horror?
Your face takes on a look of terror,
Your eyes open wide with panic,
And you turn in every direction
To look for someone who can help.
You realize that there is no one to protect you,
No one in any direction at all,
And the darkness then comes and envelops you.
In this place, there is no one at all who can protect you;
Here now is the fourth part: the description of how, in your future life, you will be tormented by pain. And once you have taken your birth in the hells, and you see the hellguards coming for you, then will you be overcome with fear, and scream out, “Ah! Where is there now anyone who can save me completely from this horror?”
Once you are in this place, in the hells, there is no one at all who can protect you from the terrors of the hells, there is at that moment absolutely nothing that you can do for yourself. And so you should, right now, make efforts in those practices which can save you from the terror later.
THE FORCE OF THE FOUNDATION
With this we have reached our explanation of the second the four forces, which is the force of the foundation.
The Victorious Buddhas, the Saviors of all living kind,
You should as well take total refuge
In the Dharma which they have grasped completely,
As well as in the assembly of bodhisattvas.
You should as well take total refuge in the Dharma which they, the Victorious Buddhas, have grasped completely, the Dharma jewel which, when you rely on it properly, eliminates every fear in this cycle of life.
And so I offer myself to the Excellent One.
I call out in a voice from a desperate situation,
And I beg you to protect me,
I seek protection in all those saviors
Whose hearts are filled with great compassion:
And forced to flee in every direction.
I feel absolute terror over the fears of the lower realms, and so I offer myself to the Excellent One (Samantabadra), that son of the Victors who possesses the power of prayers, and beg him to protect me from these fears.
Just so do I seek protection in all those saviors whose hearts are filled with great compassion: those realized bodhisattvas such as the pair named “Essence of Space” (Akashagarba) and “Essence of Earth” (Kshitigarba), and so too Loving One (Maitreya), and the Ender of Obstacles (Nivarana Vishkambi).
I have, up till now, acted against your wishes:
Now though I have seen the great terrors
And so I take refuge in you, and beg you
And so I take refuge, and commit myself to carrying out your every wish concerning those things which I should take up, and those things which I should give up. I beg you to remove my fears with all speed.
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading One: Author, Structure, and History of the Text
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Two: The Benefits of the Wish for Enlightenment
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Three: How to Make Offerings
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Four: The Four Forces of Purification, Part One
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Five: The Four Forces of Purification, Part Two
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Six: Taking Joy
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Seven: How to Fight the Mental Afflictions, Part One
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Eight: How to Fight the Mental Afflictions, Part Two
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Nine: Awareness
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Ten: The Perfections of Giving and Ethical Living